Developer: Acclaim Studios
Release Date: November 4, 2003
Shortly after the release of the box office hit Gladiator, the video game market witnessed several companies attempting to take advantage of the Gladiator hype by creating a few Gladiator themed games. With games such as Gladius and Gladiator: Sword of Vengence, one would think that an audience already accustomed and perhaps bored by the classic Gladiator storyline, would not react well to their releases. And just how many games could be created around the same storyline? Would they just be cheap knock-offs of the movie or would they actually have substance? These questions and many more puzzled gamers across the globe as they patiently waited for the answers.
Following the release of both the hit movie Gladiator, and the game Gladius, Gladiator: Sword of Vengence had its work cut out for it. At first thought, one would think that with a movie and a game already released about the Gladiator theme, not many gamers would be excited for any new Gladiator-style releases. At first glance, this seems true. However, Gladiator: Sword Of Vengence skillfully managed to bring some unique ideas to the table, and overcame the odds set against it.
Gladiator is set in 106 A.D. in the city of ancient Rome. After the mysterious death of the emperor Trajan, a ruthless leader named Arruntius seizes power of the great city, and begins work on destroying it, with the intention of renaming the new city after himself. In order to win the favor and admiration of his people, Arruntius stages the world's largest gladiatorial contest ever, to be held in the very streets of Rome. You are Invictus Thrax, a former slave and faithful servant to the previous emperor. An undefeated warrior in combat, you have been forced by the emperor to take part in his bloody gladiator contest. All goes well until you are tricked and slaughtered in front of the people of Rome. However, the story is far from over. Mystically, you wake up in Elsyium, and are greeted by the sons of Mars, Remus, and Romulus. Chosen to become their champion, you are granted the power to return to the mortal world and stop the evil emperor before he consumes the entire city of Rome. Sound like fun? It's only the beginning…
The gameplay of Gladiator can be summed up in one word: simplicity. The controls are all very simple, throughout the entire game. Going with perhaps a wise choice, the game contains two different attack buttons, a magic button, and an action button. The actual mechanics of the game are very easily learned, and the game does a very good job in teaching you the art of the trade, right from the beginning. The first level of the game serves as a kind of tutorial, which sets up the basic storyline and also teaches you all of the techniques you will need to know for the early game. With such a simple system of gameplay, one might think that the continuous hacking and slashing may get old, quick. However, this is not really the case. Anticipating this, the development team included many different combos which you may use at any time during the game. You may have to experiment to find ones you like, but eventually you will have a deadly arsenal of hack and slash combos. In this way, the gameplay is kept from becoming repetitive, and the player feels like there are new experiences around every corner. At times however, this game can seem a little repetitive, but the mixture of combos and new scenery always seems to solve the problem.
In addition to combos, there are even several fatalities you can use on nearly dead enemies. One of the big features of this game is the weapons. I really liked the fact that each weapon has its own strengths and its own weaknesses. For instance, certain weapons will work better against certain enemies- a smart player will recognize this fact and use it to his advantage. The three weapons which are at your disposal are of course the sword, the gauntlet, and the axe. At first glance this may seem like a very limited selection to choose from, however many upgrades exist which allow you to control the next level ax or the next level sword for example. As you progress through the game, you will come across challenges which you can attempt. If you are successful in completing them, you will be awarded with a prize. The prizes can range from weapon upgrades to increased health bar or new magic skills. As you pefgress scrough ope es gaLE, you anll be g'arded g w superehuman /Lwers fmam the mads. I " ally "1 igiked t" s option, since it constantly reminds you that you are not of the living anymore, and are a servant to the Gods.
One of the slight problems I had with this game was the difficulty. At many points in this game the difficulty got to be very testing. At times it seems like you are being swarmed by enemies, and some parts may take a lot of practice to get through. At times I suppose this adds to the fun, but when it becomes a repeated annoyance, it can be very frusterating. Someone who is able to quickly learn how to utilize magic powers and learn combos will definitely have an easier time than someone who does not. In many cases it is almost required to use various powers and combos to complete the level. There were several other problems I had with the game as well. For one, this game just does not seem to give you much freedom. At most parts in the game you can only move along a straight line, forwards and backwards. This really makes you feel like a caged bird, and makes you wish that you could just jump over the invisible line and go right or left for a change.
While I said before that this game usually does not seem repetitive, it does still have it's moments. For instance, after encountering the same wave of enemies over and over, you will probably begin to become bored. Sadly, this does happen at many points throughout the game. While it is only a moderate annoyance, it is powerful enough to effect the game, and the opinion of those who play it. If I were to pick the biggest problem in Gladiator, it would probably be just the amount of repetitiveness at some points in this game. Not all of the game seems this way however, but enough of it to notice. Another one of the things I really liked about this game was the atmosphere. Most all games work hard to capture an atmosphere they want, but few ever achieve it. Somehow however, Gladiator uses just the right mixture of sound, lighting, and action to produce the classic Gladiator-style atmosphere.
Lastly, an additional problem that I forgot to mention. Fixed camera angles. You gotta hate 'em. Yes, sadly Gladiator uses fixed camera angles, which as you may know from previous experience, can be an extreme nuisance. Nothing is more annoying than being cut down by an enemy who is directly in front of you, just because you can't see him. At times the camera zooms out and your player gets so small that you can barely tell where he's going. Times like this just take a lot of concentration and patience. Overall, I would say that the gameplay of Gladiator is fairly solid.
Graphically, this game is excellent. I loved all of the textures that were included in this game. Light textures as well were very good. Nothing adds to the atmosphere of a game more than ultra-realistic graphics, and Gladiator certainly proves this to be true. Many things in this game are very realistic, ranging from the armor and weapons at your command, to the graphic and brutal fatalities you may inflict upon your enemies. In the end, the graphics of Gladiator really do add to the overall feel of the game.
I enjoyed the sound of the game as well. Just like the graphics, the sound of Gladiator plays a very important role in setting the mood and atmosphere of the game. Firstly, I think that the voice acting in the game is done very well. Everything is very believable which further moves to strengthen the atmosphere of the game. In addition, I really liked the music as well. Inspired by the movie's soundtrack, written by Hans Zimmer, the music serves to be both moving and dramatic, and definitely adds to the wonderfully created scenery.
In the end, I believed that Gladiator: Sword of Vengence managed to exceed all expectations. While it is anything but a perfect game, it is definitely not a low quality game like many predicted it to be. Adding a new view to the genre, Sword of Vengence will attract fans for many years to come.
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